In Act 3, Scene 4 of King Lear, Lear finally begins to show compassion. He does this only after he is stripped of all his riches. This makes me think about the society we live in today: To successfully put yourself in another person’s shoes, do you have to physically put yourself in their situation? Sure, rich royalty can be extremely caring and kind, but to best understand those who are homeless or lower in the hierarchy of society, I think one needs to be put in their position, and from the plot of the play, I think Shakespeare would agree.
Here is an example from my life:
I went on a school ecology trip to Costa Rica a couple years ago. I was not expecting our first destination: a run down house with bed bugs, little drinking water, no air conditioning, and extreme heat. This house was owned by a hard-working Costa Rican family who graciously welcomed us and were so kind and content with life. I was very humbled by this experience because it made me realize how fortunate I was to have all of the comfortable wants that this family didn’t have. Although they had very little, they seemed like the happiest family in the world.
This brings me to another thought: Do riches determine luck and happiness? King Lear had everything he could have asked for, and yet, he always seemed stressed and unsatisfied. The family in Costa Rica had nothing but basic needs and they were completely and entirely satisfied. I would argue that too many riches can actually make a person discontented; when one has all the riches in the world, there is nothing more to work towards, disallowing you to gain something more special than what you already have.